Jul 12 2011

Should we have to pay the government to trust us?

As we noted a few months ago, some elements of the travel industry (those more interested in whether the trains and planes run smoothly and on time than on whether their smooth operation includes integral surveillance and control of travelers by governments) have joined the homeland-security industrial complex in a lobbying campaign for traveler profiling schemes that include disparate treatment for “trusted” travelers.

Travel columnist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott gets it exactly right in his analysis of the latest salvo from the “trusted traveler” industry lobby:

We can probably all agree that the TSA needs to be reformed. But at whose expense? Last week, the US Travel Association released a survey that suggests a significant majority of frequent business and leisure travelers would pay up to $150 to enroll in a “trusted traveler” program that would allow them to skip the invasive pat-downs and body scanners.

I think US Travel is asking the wrong question. We’ve already paid for any trusted traveler program, through taxes and 9/11 security fees. Will I shell out another $750 a year for my family of five to avoid having its dignity violated? Hell, no. My government trusts me to pay taxes and obey the laws of the land. Maybe it can see itself clear to also figure out that I won’t blow up my next flight without forcing me to pay extra.

There can be no meaningful reform with the current administration and its appointees in place. Maybe the first step to fixing the TSA is to elect a new administration in 2012.

I’m not sure if I like any of the current choices.